You may have a hard time envisioning conversations on social media these days that don’t have a #hashtag.
The hashtag, the symbol attached to keywords to tag topics online, on Wednesday celebrated 10 years making social media just a bit more navigable. The sign has preceded the keywords that mark out all major events around the world since 2007, when it got its first outing on Twitter.
Before long, it had spread to other social media including Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr.
It’s become a part of pop culture, sitting at the bottom of the TV screen during an ad, or as a catchphrase for a celebrity’s fans, just as the Justin Bieber’s #Beliebers.
Hashtags themselves have ranged from silly to serious. Meanwhile, there’s been the campaign to draw attention to nearly 300 kidnapped Nigerian children with #BringBackOurGirls, police misconduct with #BlackLivesMatter and, in the past couple of weeks, #ThisIsNotUS in response to the racially charged violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.
It was Chris Messina, an American designer and social media expert, who originally proposed using the hash sign (#) — pound sign in American English — to group tweets by subject.
He made the original suggestion in a tweet posted on August 23, 2007 before elaborating in a post online a couple of days later. He launched the first ever hashtag, #barcamp, to identify a set of conferences focussed around technology and the web that he helped organise.
Messina, who describes himself as an “avid Twitterer”, has sent more than 39,500 tweets in 11 years.
Today 125 million hashtags are exchanged every day, often serving as a springboard to launch massive online campaigns.